Different Categories of Prophetic Words
Words will speak to us along four main lines (and a prophecy could of course contain all four elements. The four elements are:
--a now word
--a future word
--a confirmatory word
--a new word.
A now word: many words speak into our situation as we find it at this current time. Often there will be references to the past as our current situation arose out of our previous experiences. When we receive a now word it is very encouraging that the Lord is with us today. Having received the word we will often then need understanding as to how to apply what the Lord is saying.
A future word: there are words that speak into our future. We might be living in chapter 3 of our life-story and the prophecy speaks to (for example) chapter 8 of our life. This might be the case even when the word is spoken in the present tense. This can take place for two reasons. Sometimes the one who prophesies has actually misunderstood what they have seen, or the Lord is communicating in the present tense in order to let us know that the future is as certain as the past when we cooperate with him. If we receive a future word we need to make sure that we do not simply jump on the first opportunity for an apparent fulfillment unless we are convinced that this really is what the Lord was speaking of.
We have to set our direction in the light of what the Lord says but we must do this in the context of actively seeking his face. If we seek the Lord for fulfillment of the word eventually we will be able to look back and look at our lives, relationships, and circumstances and realize this is what was being spoken of in the prophecy. In other words, prophecy is actually interpreted more accurately after the fulfillment than before. Peter was able to declare after the day of Pentecost what Joel was predicting. He might not have described what would be the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy too accurately had he tried to do so before the actual fulfillment on the Day of Pentecost. So we have to work with future words and continually seek the Lord over their fulfillment.
A confirmatory word: the Lord loves to confirm His presence, His love and intimate knowledge of us many times over. Many words do just that. They come and confirm who we are, they confirm his oversight of our lives; they speak deep affirmation into our spirits. Confirming words should increase our faith and give us strength to follow the Lord with greater resolve.
A new word: there are new things the Lord has to speak to us at times. He will answer prayer above what we ask for or even imagine (Eph.3:20-21). This means there are aspects of his dealings with us that we have not yet been able to conceive of. If we receive a new word we should not simply accept that word and change everything on the basis of the word. All words have a timing to be fulfilled (and sometimes the fulfillment comes in stages) and a new word should be confirmed as we walk with him. It needs to be confirmed both internally (the clear witness of the Spirit within us) and externally (for example through, other words, circumstances lining up, or relationships coming in place that ope up the new pathway).